Happy Apple Kitchen

Fudgy Vegan Tofu Frosting (and a bunch of cupcakes)

tofu frosting
So it happened, and I didn’t cry. I mean, I did cry, but not once it was real. Anticipation is usually the hardest. In any case, Little Monkey turned three. And, as has been his M.O. since before birth, in so many ways (with the major exception of his arrival) he made it surprisingly easy for me.  He was so proud, so of course I was/am so proud. “I’m free,” he’s been announcing to everyone sweetly.  “Mine party was in the mountains.”
 tofu frosting
Indeed, the “party in the mountains” was so much fun, both singular and signature to our joyful little Colorado kid, who devised the whole plan in specific detail himself. Tofu hot dog and roasted cauliflower loving, active boy was adamant, “little hiking party, not big one, Estes park.”  The low-key, casual focus…literally a hike around a scenic lake…made for relaxed planning, low-stress prep,  and tons of fun. Essentially, I got to throw myself with total abandon, as is my M.O. I suppose, into cupcakes.
 
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Most people who know me know, I have a tendency to overthink food. Whether I’m providing, consuming or gifting, it has to be healthy (or healthy, considering), for one thing. A lot of symbolism goes into it. It’s always made with love, but it’s not always successful, and when that’s the case, I don’t very well let go. Seriously, apologies and even nightmares over bland soup that would have been otherwise forgotten by the recipient. I’m passionate, committed and invested when it comes to cooking, creating, and arranging meals. It may seem like obsessing, but I know about obsessing, and I’m not there anymore. It was a dark place.
 
For the past two years, I’ve taken bashful but blooming pride in Little Monkey’s gluten-free, vegan, low sugar/naturally sweetened birthday cupcake assortment. Those years, I stopped short of making “real” frosting, opting for plain melted dark chocolate instead. This year, I wanted something more frosting-like, something that would hold up well traveling to the mountains and potentially sitting in the sun awhile. And suddenly, as I channeled hyper energy scouring cyberspace for “healthy frosting”, suddenly I stopped. Not sure if paralysis or stillness is the more appropriate word. I started to think about my relationship with food, which is too intertwined with body image to detach as two separate entities, so I thought about that, too.
 
Fitty's party Lily Lake-13Food relationships and body image. With both, everyone has a long, evolving personal journey, and often one or both are painful and incomplete. For me, the former was where symptoms of the latter manifested most, and I have a lot to say about that, another day. What I will say is, there was a time a long time ago when I found myself landing in the hospital, gray in complexion, bruising easily, coughing up blood and shedding hair like sloughed-off summer skin cells, throbbing with self-loathing and anxiety that I “couldn’t even be anorexic right”, still failing to reach a fantasy, idealized thinness. So many factors played into the journey, both into and out of the void, and I can honestly, confidently say the winding road eventually developed into a gift that is now a healthy, loving, knowledgeable relationship with food. Again another conversation, another day. What’s important now, in this post about frosting, is that for a moment I startled myself by asking, what messages am I sending my child in my heartfelt flurry of baking? Will he grow up appreciating how his parents tried their best to raise him on a (mostly) plant-based diet, or rejecting and maybe resenting imposed choices? Will he go through a rebel phase of hammering hot dogs and blimping out on on burgers in actual spite? By contemplating withholding frosting am I prioritizing deprivation?
 
Fitty's party Lily Lake-18Life isn’t about yes/no questions. Any answers I may have now will just keep on changing shape and tone, and they’ll just be my answers, not a one for everyone. I won’t pretend I spent a huge amount of time that particular frozen moment spent contemplating. I was baking, after all. But what did rise to the top of thought was simply confirmation: I want to be the best role model I am capable of and know how to be in each moment. And, my darling adventurer and kale-craving adventurous eater can have some frosting.
 
This year, Little Monkey got to choose from gluten-free vegan sweet potato cupcakes, vegan double chocolate cupcakes, and grain-free low sugar banana cupcakes. They were not baked with angst over what people would think, and they were yummy. They were all topped with a chocolate tofu frosting concoction I stumbled upon because I couldn’t get vegan butter (dairy-based not an option for us). If tofu frosting hardly seems like flexibility attained from a moment of self-reflection, know: it does pack in a solid amount of sugar, but it’s merely 3 (or 4, with vanilla) simple ingredients, whizzed in a blender. It’s so easy, holds up great (as tested by a 3-year old’s mountain hiking party), and is delicious. Perfect cupcake topping so long as you’re ok with soy, and not such a sugar-rush that you’d consider shoveling in a bowl-ful. Thank you for your Happy Birthday, sweet Fitty. Whatever you choose to color your plate and your journey as the years roll by, we love you.
 
 
Fudgy Vegan tofu frosting
Yields 2
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Ingredients
  1. 4-ounce (1/2 block) soft (not silken) tofu
  2. 1 cup dark chocolate pieces or chips
  3. 2 cups powdered sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, gentle melt chocolate in a little water on medium-low, stirring, until smooth (or microwave on low until melted).
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine tofu, sugar, melted chocolate and vanilla. Blend until smooth.
  3. Scrape mixture with a spatula into a storage container, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before applying to cake or cupcakes. (Frosting will set in the fridge, and will hold up well even after brought to room temperature.)
Happy Apple Kitchen http://www.fit-and-frugal.com/

 

Double chocolate vegan cupcakes
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup almond or other non-dairy milk
  2. 2/3 cup sugar
  3. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  5. 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  6. 1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted
  7. 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  8. 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  9. 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  10. 1 tsp baking soda
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. In a large bowl combine almond milk, oil, applesauce, sugar, apple cider vinegar,melted chocolate, and vanilla.
  2. Add in flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Mix well, until smooth.
  3. Spoon the batter into prepared cupcake pan, about two thirds full for each. Bake for about 22 minutes at 350F, or until the cupcake slowly springs back when pressed with a finger. Cool completely and frost with tofu frosting.
Adapted from Oh She Glows
Adapted from Oh She Glows
Happy Apple Kitchen http://www.fit-and-frugal.com/

Grain-free almond banana muffin-cupcakes
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Ingredients
  1. 2 eggs
  2. 2 very ripe bananas
  3. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  4. 1/3 cup honey (I used Madhava banana flavored honey) or maple syrup
  5. 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  6. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  7. 1 tsp baking powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  9. 3/4 cup almond meal/almond flour
  10. 3/4 cup chickpea flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin paper liners
  2. In a large bowl, mash bananas. Stir in applesauce, honey or maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. Add almond meal and chickpea flour and stir until batter is well combined.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool before frosting (or leave as they are for yummy muffins).
Happy Apple Kitchen http://www.fit-and-frugal.com/
Sweet potato cupcakes used this recipe from last year, only with 1 cup tapioca flour and 1 1/2 cup brown rice flour. 🙂

Simple blender peach (or most fruits) sorbet

Who’s good at meditation? Not me. Those who have reached a zen level of practice and being would generously assert that just trying is succeeding, I know. But as the one most intimately aware with the specifics, I think I can fairly assess that I’m pretty abysmal. What I am good at is reading about meditation. I’m fascinated by it. Did you know, apparently mere minutes of meditation positive changes expression of hundreds, maybe thousands of genomes? Benefits are mind-boggling, covering anti-anxiety , anti-inflammatory, and pro-happiness benefits on a staggering scale.

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Unfortunately fascination and even transcendent goals like obtaining inner peace and a longer, happier life do not easily translate into practice and work. But this summer, I’ve been trying to make short evening walks around the neighborhood, just me and doggie, into dual purpose walking meditations.

Since sitting and maintaining posture has been one of the most challenging aspects of attempting to meditate, you’d think the built-in activity of walking meditation would be loads easier. Just walk, breathe, and focus on said breath for a solid start. But walking is also conducive to lots of thinking, and observations that sometimes achieve such feelings of clarity they feel in line with meditation, yet deceptive distractions, too. They, and these walking meditation efforts themselves, are kind of like contranyms.

sorbet
Contranyms, in case the word seems familiar but isn’t, are the opposite of synonyms, as they sound. Two disparate meanings. And yes, I deliberately found a way to insert that word because last week I remembered I had forgotten the weird existed and became reacquainted with it. And when that happens, (the reuniting part, not the associated question mark of memory loss and creeping senility), isn’t it so pleasant finding opportunities to play?

But, the whole point of this post… This sorbet. This summer, I had the happy task of getting to experiment and create some more with delectable Madhava honeys. Lemon ginger…it has the loveliest tang that is perfect for sweet treats like sorbet. And the other evening, there was something about the golden glow of the waning afternoon, the way it seemed to be bidding everything goodbye with warm kisses just as evening began to sweep in. I was distracted from my fumbling meditation with  a geekily cheerful image of this sorbet. Seriously. I am such a nerd.

sorbet2
But really, this sorbet. It’s like tasting the sunset, only chilled. Lemon ginger honey lovely, but you can go without. Just about any fruit combination works, too. You’ve probably seen a super cool video that has become ubiquitous on Facebook making sorbet with honeydew, and it is awesome. The flavor tastes treat-like yummy and grown-up somehow, too. Unique.

You don’t really even have to include honey to blend up deliciousness, and there is infinite room for variation. Whatever blend you go with, it’s going to feel blissfully indulgent yet also like an appropriate choice with breakfast. It’s so simple it seems to defy positing/writing up yet must be shared. It’s kind of its own contranym. (See what I did there? I know. Goofy. But are connections everywhere, when we want them.)

Simple Blender Peach Sorbet

  • 2 cups chopped peaches, frozen and slightly thawed
  • ¼ cup honey or less (I used Madhava Organic Lemon Zest Ginger Honey)
  • ½ cup water or coconut water
  1. In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine all ingredients.
  2. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Serve immediately or transfer to a container and freeze for 30 minutes to one hour.
    *This recipe can be adapted to most frozen fruits. Try mixed berries or honeydew for variety.

Carter Lake Crossing: “Race Report”

This event recap is about a month old now, and I wasn’t going to share it here, but then the journal voice of the blog won out for the sake of posterity, in case swimming happens to slip back into the lowly ranks of “extra” again.  😉

What kind of reluctant swimmer signs up for a 3-mile open water swim race on a whim and with enthusiasm? That would be me. And, it was lovely. Really, truly enjoyable, in so many ways, from the scenery to the conviviality to the personal attitude.

This is not a race report. That would be a dishonest description, since it was never my intention to “race”. It’s more of an “event description”.

Coming from a running background and lacking in swimming talent and motivation, I tended to count swimming as “extra” or even “rest” when training for multisport, even when an attempt at swimming hard resulted in rubbery whole-body lethargy and searing lungs. But when, last year, my avid ultra-running husband was handed a devastating blow in the form of complex injuries that meant he would have to give up running permanently, something changed. I didn’t transform into a “swimmer”, but I made the decision to start swimming like I meant it, to support him and also to safeguard my own active options for the unseen, inevitable future.

Two swim sessions bursting with incredible pointers from the brilliant Eney Jones and I felt gifted with a new perspective on moving through the water. I soon had to acknowledge that enjoyment for the sport was creeping in on me, on just two one-hour swims a week. I even found myself inspired to sign up for swim events, completing a few one-mile, and one two-mile, races. There was a peaceful friendliness to those morning swims that made me hungry for more. It was strange being motivated by something I was floundering at. But I loved the shift back to finding satisfaction in “complete” versus “compete”. The anonymity and finding your own groove oblivious to whose feet were creating the bubbles and waves around you felt somehow really great.

I signed up for the Carter Lake Crossing because after a year of healing a glute injury, I hadn’t challenged myself with event goals for awhile, and I craved something different. I’d ridden many times along the lake, but had never dipped a toe in the water. Three miles of swimming seemed an awfully long way to go, but at the same time a logical step up from 2.4, my longest to date as part of a tri.

Leading up to the race, I felt more relaxed than I deserved. Knowing it was a foregone conclusion I’d be closer to the back than the front made it hard to really stress. The day before, however, I started to panic, dreading: a) how early I was going to have to wake up, then b) the possibility that I really might actually drown.

As it turned out, not only did I not drown, but from the moment I arrived with a friend at registration to the second I stepped out of the water, things couldn’t have been more relaxed considering it was officially a competition. I bumped into friends, and everyone I met or brushed wetsuits with exuded laid-back, cheerful energy, whether they expected to be first out of the water or carried back on a jet ski.

Since the race is point-to-point, we were shuttled to the start line. Race briefing was concise, casual but clear on safety. The water was perfect and generally still, save for the odd pulsing wave from nearby boats. Sighting was easy as could be, with the shoreline to follow parallel to the bright orange and yellow buoys.

Maybe if I was a stronger swimmer I’d get caught up in thoughts of where I might be in the “pack” and my ultimate time. Sometimes not being near the top of your category has its benefits, I’ve discovered. Swimming, I felt on my own but in touch. I did my best, and was happy with my 1:37:17 getting from start to finish. But best of all, it was the ‘during’ part of the experience that was most rewarding. In fact, I even fell into a sort of meditative zen at points, appreciating the opportunity to just stretch my body and turn off thoughts. Until this year, I never would have imagined that I’d sign up for a swim event like this without being goaded somehow, but I did. What’s more, I will surely do it again, and relish the prospect.

Coconut flour summer harvest muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free)

It’s been a week since my last post, and I’m still riding sentimental waves of heady nostalgia…because, my baby is turning three soon! So, rather than risking too much repetition that is bound to keep coming promise, I’ll keep this short. Basically, just slap down a recipe, with a wee little note or two.

squash muffins

Felix in Rockies-2Yesterday, we went to the mountains, and spent a full morning exploring Estes Park at toddler pace. Little (Big now) Monkey proudly brandished binoculars (“nockle-ers”), trotting with cheerful, bubbly freedom along the pine-scented trail to Cub Lake. First weekend in August, and already little wispy glimpses of autumn were appearing, floating on the breezes, dancing and twirling in soft, small yellow shocks of leaves, echoing feelings churning inside my chest. So many special somethings coming to a close…but so much wonder in today, right now. And I do love fall.

 

But, muffins.

squash muffins3

 

Zucchini, yellow summer squash, carrots. These easy little packets of goodness can be thrown together quickly with pretty much whatever varying proportions of this sweet summer assortment is convenient. A tablespoon or two of pure maple syrup is lovely, but with a handful or so of raisins, you don’t even need that. They’re hearty but reminiscent of sponge-cake in the way only coconut flour can provide. Without just 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil and no added sugars, gluten or dairy, but with naturally sweetly delicious vegetables, they’re a quick, portable power snack or breakfast-to-go. Besides that, they’re easy to vary and play with. Have fun.

Summer harvest muffins
Yield: 12 muffins

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive or liquid coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups mix of shredded zucchini, yellow summer squash, and carrots (any amounts of each), tightly packed

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Prepare a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or baking cups.
  3. In a large bowl all ingredients through vanilla and whisk to smoothly combine. Stir in the shredded squash-carrot mix.
  4. Divide batter into muffin cups, filling approximately 3/4 of each cup.
  5. Bake 22-24 minutes, or until muffins are set in center.

 

 

 

Gluten-free chocolate zucchini muffins

choc_zucchini

I wish the reason I felt so driven to squeeze in a whole bunch of zucchini muffin experimentation into a typically busy weekend was because our garden is bursting with zucchini, but it wasn’t. Our “garden” is nonexistent this year, due to a combination of vacation timing, heat, and regular significant distractions in what has been a crazy fast summer. There were a whole bunch of fun factors validating said muffin-making, however: thanks to friend Kate, whose own garden is set to get zany with zucchini, for being one of multiple motivators. The other BIG one (and it is big), my little monkey darling is turning THREE in just over three short weeks! How did that happen?

choc_zucchini
I could ramble on in a thousand different directions on the emotional upheaval I’ve been feeling at another major milestone approaching. In truth, no one can prepare you–nor should they, really–for how heart-wrenching the well of pride, joy, pain, loss, fear, protectiveness, clinging, aching, and loving, loving, loving parenting is…and who knows what else. Maybe anything that’s love. I have been tortuously wrecking myself with prolonged reflection and anticipation of “firsts being lasts”.  But let’s put that aside for the moment, and talk about muffins that are both rich and light enough to be cupcakes.

choc_zucchini4

For his birthday this year, our little explorer came up with adventurous party plans all on his own, and including such specificity we couldn’t help but honor it. He wants a “hiking party”, a good 45 minutes to an hour away, in Estes park. He doesn’t want “lot of kids” because “too many my friends at one time, confuse me, don’t know who talk to.” We’ve been experiencing a bit of a shy phase. It can be a little awkward determining plans recognizing his social needs are much lower than mine right now, but I am so proud of the perceptive way he acknowledges and articulates his feelings!

choc_zucchini2

Anyway, back to these muffins/would be cupcakes (frosted and decorated to look like ‘bear paws’). Here’s the deal: I really wanted to make something that could be an everyday muffin/quick bread and also double up as cupcakes, frosted. The leanest version I’ve tried uses just 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup and 1/3 cup melted dark chocolate. I loved the result…but I was the only one, except straight out of the oven, and not completely baked through, in which case there was a 10 minute-or-so window where they tasted kind of like lava cake, toddler/preschooler heartily approved. For broader palate pleasing, increasing maple syrup to 1/4 cup and adding more dark chocolate chips/chunks to the batter is a really smart move.  But you tell me, especially all you successful zucchini growers this summer…what would you throw in FTW? 😉

Gluten-free chocolate zucchini muffins
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup coconut oil
  2. 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks, divided (or just 1/3 cup for a lighter, or 1/3 + 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips for a richer version)
  3. 1 cup brown rice flour plus 3/4 cup tapioca flour OR 1 3/4 cup of your favorite gluten-free blend
  4. 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  8. 2 eggs, lightly beaten OR 2 flax eggs
  9. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  10. 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  11. 1/4 maple syrup
  12. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  13. 2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 medium)
  14. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a small saucepan, gently melt coconut oil and 1/3 cup chocolate on low, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Turn off heat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and add eggs, applesauce, almond milk, maple syrup and vanilla and whisk to form a batter.
  4. Stir in zucchini and nuts (if using)
  5. Pour the batter into a muffin tin prepared with cooking spray or muffin liners. Fill each cup 3/4 of the way up. Bake 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Notes
  1. Note: these can spoil fast! Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Happy Apple Kitchen http://www.fit-and-frugal.com/